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The board of Thai Airways International has
approved a plan to acquire 15 widebody
aircraft, as the start of a broader fleet renewal
Eight of the new jetliners will be used for
long-haul flights and seven for medium-range
routes. The board wants the carrier to look
at 350-seat long-haul aircraft and 300-seat
According to Thai Airways Chairman Ampon
Kittiampon, the carrier will acquire a total of
70 aircraft over the next 15 years to replace its
ageing fleet. That excludes five Airbus A330-
300s scheduled for delivery later this year and
six Airbus A380s to be delivered from October
2012 through to 2013.
Ampon says the carrier is evaluating the
possibility of leasing the 15 widebodies, as
buying them outright would be too much of a
financial burden as the airline industry emerges
from the global financial crisis. Thai Airways has
yet to decide on the aircraft types it will acquire,
although sources close to the airline say that
it will probably opt for the Boeing 777-300ER
for long-haul flights and the A330-300 for
In a separate development, Thai Airways
International says it will drop three international
routes and cut capacity on three others, with
the summer schedule starting 28 March, as part
of a network restructuring plan.
The services being abandoned are Thai’s
thrice-weekly Bangkok-Kuwait flight, using
Airbus A330-300s, the daily Hong Kong-Taipei
route, operated by Boeing 747-400s and the
daily Bangkok-Manila-Osaka flight, which uses
777-200 aircraft. The daily Oslo service will be
reduced to five times weekly, while Moscow
and Busan will be cut back by one weekly flight
each, to thrice weekly.
On the domestic front, Thai Airways’ daily
Chiang Mai and Phuket flights will be reduced
to twice weekly due to tough competition from
low-cost carriers such as Thai AirAsia, which
now has 50 percent of the domestic market,
Nok Air and One-Two-Go Airlines.
From the beginning of March, Thai Airways
will allow its Nok Air affiliate to take over routes
serving Phitsanulok, Ubon Ratchanthani and
Khon Kaen. The Thai flag carrier holds a 39
percent stake in Nok Air.
Services to Kuwait will be axed due to
declining passenger loads. The route was
originally launched in November 1977 and
suspended in March 1985 due to poor
passenger loads, then re-introduced in 2002.
On its Bangkok-Manila-Osaka route, Thai
Airways is also seeing load factors fall, because
it is unable to match fares offered by Philippines-
based low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific Air.
On the positive side, Thai Airways will
resume services to Johannesburg from 16 May,
operating four times weekly, non-stop flights
using 747-400s, after a hiatus of 17 months.
The airline is evaluating the possibility of
extending the flight to Cape Town.
According to Pruet Boobphakam, Thai
Airways’ executive vice-president for commercial
affairs, the World Cup 2010 soccer tournament
to be held in South Africa in June provides a
good opportunity for the carrier to resume
operating the flights. “South Africa’s growing
economy is an added attraction,” Pruet says. –
Thai Airways to acquire 70 new aircraft over next 15 years
AirAsia, VietJet form Vietnamese LCC
AirAsia and Hanoi-based VietJet Aviation
Stock Company, which operates as VietJet
Air, have signed an agreement to set up a
new low-cost carrier (LCC) in Vietnam.
The agreement follows the acquisition by
Kuala Lumpur-based AirAsia of a 30 percent
stake in VietJet, which was approved by
Vietnam’s Ministry of Transportation on 9
Based in Hanoi, the new airline will
operate under the name VietJet AirAsia.
It will be AirAsia’s third overseas affiliate,
alongside Thai AirAsia and Indonesia
AirAsia. The joint venture strengthens the
Malaysian carrier’s position, expanding its
operations in South-East Asia, strengthening
intra-regional connectivity and promoting
the market as a tourist destination.
VietJet AirAsia will operate domestic
and international flights and is currently
finalising its route network, frequencies and
launch date. It is expected to use single-aisle
Airbus A320-200 aircraft for its operations.
VietJet AirAsia will be the second LCC in
Vietnam after Jetstar Pacific Airlines.
VietJet Air received its air operating
certificate from the Vietnamese authorities
in November 2007, with plans to fly from
Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City and Danang in
Vietnam, and internationally to Singapore,
Malaysia, China, Thailand, Korea and
It was supposed to start operations in late
2008 but shelved plans due to the weak
demand for travel caused by the global
VietJet AirAsia will use the operating
rights of VietJet Air. The setting up of yet
another LCC in the region comes at a time
when the low-fare segment of the market
AirAsia also had plans to set up a joint
venture LCC in Dhaka, Bangladesh, but
talks with the company’s prospective
partner there ended in a deadlock.
The 777 is a likely candidate to meet Thai’s long-haul needs in its fleet renewal plan.
7/03/10 12:07 PM
7/03/10 12:07 PM
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